G is for Garbage…and Garbage Dreams!

This week has turned into environment week here on Escapade through Egypt! After my R is for Rubbish post, I decided I definitely needed to highlight Cairo’s zaballeen and Garbage City and then I ran across a recent Al Masry Al Youm article about this very thing.

Garbage City came into existence in the 1950s, attracting an influx of predominantly poor Christian farmers from southern Egypt…While many western countries reach recycling rates as high as 30 percent, and foreign companies currently working in Cairo reach about 20 percent, the zabaleen can recycle an astonishing 80 percent of the trash produced by the city, transforming it into commodities.

Unfortunately, the city government decided five years ago to give the job of trash collecting and recycling to the private foreign companies. This has drastically changed the lives of the zabaleen, as well as the cleanliness of the city. And one film-maker was there to tell their story.

Garbage Dreams (2009), a documentary film directed by Mai Iskander and winner of 23 awards, delves into the lives of informal garbage collectors on the outskirts of Cairo by following three teenage boys: Adham, Osama and Nabil…Like many waste collectors, the boys in the film are forced to make decisions that will affect their future and the survival of their community.

I have not yet had the opportunity to view this film, but it has been screened at least twice in Cairo and in dozens of cities and film festivals around the States. The DVD is now available for purchase.

With the ability to recycle 80% of trash, we definitely have something to learn from the zaballeen.